New Year, Old Tricks

Earlier this week, I shared with you my love for all things Belsnickel.

For the record, the lonely travelers I was talking about were rural Belsnickels. They terrorized children that lived down long lanes, in drafty old farmhouses. Children who had to milk cows and help can beans. Children who spent most of the winter carrying water to thirsty animals. Children who were probably too tired to get in much trouble anyway.

Urban Belsnickels, on the other hand, traveled in packs, gathering under street lamps to dance, sing or ask for donations (it really is uncanny how all of these Belsnickel guys sound just like my Uncle Dave). They could be quite destructive, blocking streets with “old barrels, hogheads, grocery boxes, wheelbarrels, harrows, plows, wagon and cart wheels” (from the Pottstown LaFayette Aurora in 1826). If I came to an intersection, and found that it was blocked by huge piles of hogheads, I think I’d find an alternate route. Fast.

As time went on, many of these hooligans wore masks and performed short skits. The revelry delighted some and annoyed others, with the editor of the Pottstown Ledger writing on December 26, 1873, that “This bellsnickle business, which is becoming more of a rough and rowdy of the Christmas season each year, might as well be omitted altogether.”
The dancing around with the masks was called…*wait for it*...*here it comes*….MUMMING!!!

Sound phamiliar, phellow Philadelphians?

While it was omitted altogether from Christmas,¬†mumming found a place on New Year’s Day in the Philadelphia Mummer’s Day parade. Where it delights some and annoys others to this day.

How are you spending new year’s day? Any resolutions that are fit for public comment?

I’m headed off to find some pork and sauerkraut, like any good Pennsylvania Dutch girl (I might cover my bases, since I’m spending the day in the south, and throw in some collards and black-eyed peas…because I can use all the luck I can get!)

Happy New Year!!!!

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